Sierra de Guara

The most dramatic and highest section of the Pre-Pyrenees, at least in Aragón, is the sparsely populated massif of the Sierra de Guara. Rising to just over 2000m, these Pyrenean foothills are cloaked in Mediterranean scrub and forest, and cut through by several rivers on their way to the Ebro, forming several spectacular gorges. Erosion has also sculpted huge conglomerate rock formations known locally as mallos, most strikingly the Mallos de Riglos.

Bearded vultures in the Sierra de Guara

The Sierra de Guara is home to what is possibly the highest density in the world of the remarkable lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), also known as the bearded vulture. This is the largest bird of prey in Eurasia and Europe’s rarest vulture: around 70% of the continent’s population live in the Aragonese Pyrenees – around 90 pairs out a total of 130? for the Pyrenees as a whole. The lammergeier is also the world’s only bone-eating bird. They feed on marrow which they get by dropping bones repeatedly onto rocks, as their Spanish and Catalan names quebrantahuesos and trencalòs (bonebreaker) aptly suggest, as does their old name in English, ossifrage. I also love the local Aragonese term clunchigüesos, which I’ll admit may not be very useful. They’ll come back again and again to their favourite rocky areas, known in English as ossuaries, to dash the bones they find stripped by other vultures.The lammergeier population was decimated in the 20th century by poisoning, much of it due to the mistaken and widespread belief that they would take young lambs.

Guara supports one of the highest numbers of butterfly species in Europe and a superb array of birdlife.

Alquezar vulture feeding station

Several vulture feeding stations have been set up in the Sierra de Guara offering superb viewing opportunities, the most spectacular of which is just outside the beautifully restored village of Alquezar. Meat, offal and bones are thrown out attracting large numbers of griffon vultures, kites, summer-visiting Egyptian vultures, and on good days, a bearded vulture or two.